Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NATO-Russian naval controntation on tap in Black Sea?

Tbilisia/Kiev/Moscow - A NATO-Russia naval confrontation in the Black Sea appeared days away on Tuesday, after American officials announced a US warship would attempt to enter a Georgian port controlled by Russian army and naval forces. US fleet elements will in coming weeks unload humanitarian aid in the Russia-controlled Georgian port Poti, US embassy spokesman Stephen Guice said in remarks widely reported by Georgian media.

The American announcement setting the stage for a direct US-Russia naval confrontation came against a background of continuing high tensions in the region in the wake of the Russia-Georgia conflict and with both Russia and NATO rushing warships into the Black Sea.[...]

The Kremlin has harshly criticised the NATO naval buildup, and has repeatedly made public the names and destinations of NATO warships moving into the region, well before Brussels' official acknowledgement.

NATO currently has a total eight warships operating in the Black Sea, with a ninth frigate en route and expected on Georgia station in the next few days, Russian naval officials citing maritime intelligence said Tuesday.

But Moscow also has responded to the apparent - if officially denied - NATO naval challenge by spiking its own Black Sea warship levels.

The flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, the guided missle cruiser Moscow, put to sea on Monday after returning to its home base port Sevastopol, Ukraine.